Go Live or Go Home: Streaming Strategy for Small Churches
Technology has evolved and changed, and now it’s possible for nearly every church to broadcast. But just because we can doesn’t mean we should—it’s important to create a strategy for online streaming. Answering these following questions should help you create a strategy that fits your church’s streaming ambitions. Let’s start by creating your church’s streaming strategy in terms of “5 W’s.”
Why are we doing this?
This should be your first question. Bad answers might include: because we can, it is trendy, or they are already watching someone else. Good answers would reflect how are you meeting the needs of the community and those in your church. For my church, this is a strategic element to help us engage with all of the factory workers and people working swing shifts. We stream for them. It is great seeing people interact with the stream on Tuesday or Wednesday, because that’s the day they’re able to watch. Our why fit our context.
Who is your audience?
You are making this content for someone. Ask yourself who that someone is. Is your streaming a service for shut-ins and those that can’t make it to church? Is it another venue for outreach and a new front door? Is it both, or is it someone entirely different? Each answer requires a different approach and intentionality.
Who is going to run this?
Don’t forget a streaming ministry needs volunteers. You may be able to get away with a stationary camera, but who will turn it on? Who will troubleshoot when something goes wrong (because it will)? Who will interact with the audience? Who will make sure everything is charged? You could get a decent volunteer group here. Start asking who, and what they will be doing before you even make a purchase.
What are you streaming?
This may seem like a weird question to ask, but the answer is important. Are you going to stream the whole service? That might seem like the right answer, but if you are using a smartphone they don’t record the best live music audio. Live streaming the whole service means you also have to consider your church’s music licensing—does it include the capability to stream music? If your tech isn’t there to at least give adequate coverage, then start small and build an audience with what you can do well. There are also other things to stream than just your main service. Will you record them? What policy dictates what gets streamed?
What am I streaming on?
While the tech may be readily available, the internet not as much. I have all the tech in my church to record at 1080p (meaning high definition) But, what I don’t have is an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that can support streaming at such a high quality. Most weeks I can get away with 480i (standard definition) for quality. Before you engage in this see if your Internet even makes an investment worthwhile. There is a good chance that if your internet quality is not good enough for broadcasting, then it is also not good enough for your audience to stream your services.
Where am I streaming to?
There are so many streaming service options now. With the right software you can stream to multiple platforms, but do you need to? This goes back to your audience, which platform would you find your audience on? Another element to consider is if the majority of your web presence is your website, think about streaming there. If it is Facebook, then stream there. Wherever you go, make sure you stream to that source.
When do I address the audience?
When you stream, someone is watching. If you only want them to be an audience then you do not need to worry about this. If this is a form of engagement for you, then you need to interact. This is a unique advantage streaming has over a live service. People can interact and are encouraged to do so.
How will we stream?
This is where we ask the technology question. This is the last question to ask. The rest of the questions are more important because they help you figure out what you need. If you can only manage one volunteer, and you are only streaming the sermon, then the tech you need is a lot more minimal than if you do a full push.
When looking at the tech, look at your space and ask these questions:
- Is our space camera friendly (looking at lighting and background colors)?
- Do we need one camera or multi-camera (this relates to the flow of presentation)?
- How will we get audio into the feed?
- Where will the camera go? (Some people have an issue with a visible camera.)
- What can we afford? (Do not be a bad stewart and spend more than you have.)
- Will the technology do what we need? (It might be a great camera, but it might not be the one you need.)
This is a simple outline to help you think out where to go when setting up your streaming strategy. The strategy is important as it will inform how you grow, the tech you use, and put up boundaries to keep yourself from just making noise.